Living with the War (Part I)
Soon after Prince Sihanouk had been removed in March 1970, from Head of State, the Prince took the plane from Moscow, but did not return to Cambodia. His plane landed in Beijing, where he was received by the Chinese like the formal Head of State of a friendly nation. He was granted Asylum there and started his fighting against the new rulers in Phnom Penh, Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirimatak. He urged Cambodians to go to marquee to struggle to liberate the country. With the backing of the North-Vietnamese army a “liberated army” or Khmer Rumdoh was quickly formed. Many young Cambodians were recruited and black uniform were distributed to the new soldiers.
For security reason, my father took us first to his home village at Cheang Torng commune, Tram Kok district and let us stayed there for a while. He came back to Ang Tasom to continue his job as teacher. He must later on realize that the Khmer Rouge had occupied our home villages and the area close to the mountains. He returned to take us back and send us to live in Takeo provincial town with our aunt and grand uncles. In Ang Tasom, there was fighting everyday between government’s troop and the Khmer Rouge. We did see our house again since then. It was told that it was burned to the ground by the fire during a fierce fighting.
In Takeo, we lived in the house provided to us temporarily by the older sister of my mother. The kids were able to go to school again. My father lived alone in Ang Tasom, where he taught at day time and worked as a “military commando” at night-time. We were very worry about his safety since we heard that there was fighting every day. Life was hard for us since there were more and more refugee coming to a small town and there was shortage of food supply. Inflation was rising. My mother started to buy paddy, milled it and sold rice in the market to make money to support the family.
The kids could still go to school. There was temporarily closing period for the schools when fighting was intense. In our school’ s compound there were artillery stationed inside. We liked to watch when it was firing into the Khmer Rouge’s zone. Our school compound was using as helicopter land platform too. I dreamed to become a pilot what I was young. So, I like observing those helicopters took off and landing very much, not without risks. Every time, when helicopters arrived, so did the artillery shells from the Khmer Rouge as well. We have to take cover when we heard that there was a soft noise of firing artillery from far away. Soon, it will reach us or Takeo town. We learnt to hear the voices of the gun or the artillery’s shells. We could know if it will come down close or far away from us.
Every night we heard machine gun exchange between government’s troops and the other side. At night-time, one could see clearly the light ammunitions (in color) flying in row. We heard the good and bad news from the fronts every day, via refugees or TV. It was a daily routine between life and death on the streets of Takeo.
One day, one family living just opposite to our house, was on the trip to Phnom Penh via national road # 2. The road connection was cut off and they could not travel to Phnom Penh and returned to their house. They did have lunch together on a bed using as eating table. Suddenly, we heard a loud artillery explosion. All were suddenly killed, except one, who went away from that bed to take some water for a drink. They were buried behind their house, the next day, after short religious ceremony. It was a real tragedy for this family, whom we know each other very well. We were asked by our parents not to go out without necessity.